Golf in North Norfolk serves up some excellent tests. Add in a real step-back-in-time feel to this stretch of coast and it's a great place to play
I first saw siren-like photos of Sheringham and Hunstanton many years ago, but hadn’t ever quite been able to engineer a golfing visit.
I’d been on family holidays to the area and loved the seemingly slower pace of life, so when the chance to play golf in North Norfolk finally came around, it was one I grabbed with both hands…
I’d envisaged a glorious clifftop setting at Cromer, and it is, once you’ve worked your way through the parkland openers where trouble awaits a slice.
From the 6th the course loops back and stays closer to the cliffs, with the 7th offering a dramatic drive and green setting.
Coming home the turf takes on a springier feel and there are some stirring holes – the 14th curving round to the lighthouse, the 15th with its daunting tee-shot, and the 16th – ‘Hog’s Back’ – which provide a wonderful vantage point.
West Runton is a quirky nine-holer playing along the foot of Incleborough Hill before climbing up, then dropping back down to a charming red-roofed pavilion that was originally Sheringham’s clubhouse (purchased in kit form from Harrods!).
The club had to sacrifice nine holes in the 1950s, but today’s 6th stands out, an extraordinary par 4 playing across a valley then up a one-in-two slope to a sleeper-fronted green – an approach shot that brings to mind the Crows Nest hole at Shiskine on the Isle of Arran.
The cliffs at Sheringham provide a wonderfully liberating setting for golf, with the sea in view from every hole.
The five cliff-hugging holes from the 3rd to the 7th are a real treat, especially the 4th, a spectacular 456-yarder with potentially distracting views.
After the clifftop stretch, there’s a wonderful variety among the ‘inner’ holes before a closing quartet, which flank the restored North Norfolk Steam Railway.
Royal West Norfolk
There’s a gloriously old school feel to both clubhouse and course here, a million miles from the manicured perfection of a lush parkland layout.
The links at Brancaster is rugged and raw, with the approach shots to the 8th and 9th at the far end of the course taking on a whole new dimension at high tide.
Like Brancaster, Hunstanton, ranked 64th in Golf Monthly’s Top 100, has a rugged feel from the outset, a little like Prince’s in Kent with limited sea views, fields on one side and a central bisecting dune ridge from where you first glimpse the sea on the 5th.
For me, the 17th was a dead-ringer for the 6th on Prince’s Shore nine with its shelf green.
There’s an impressive sleepered bunker on the 1st – hopefully irrelevant given its proximity to the tee – and another on the 7th, a memorable, valleyed par 3 with a self-contained feel.
That hole follows a 336-yard par 4, whose elevated table-top green confounds its apparent ease on the scorecard.
The name of the game at Kings Lynn, a little way inland, is undoubtedly accuracy.
This is because it’s pretty tight full-stop, and almost every hole until the 9th (the 1st and par-3 5th excluded) doglegs one way or the other.
The 3rd, a strong par 4 playing up and round to the right, apparently used to be the 1st, which must have made for a daunting start.
But although you do need to be straight, more often than not when you stray offline, you’ll be chipping out rather than losing a ball.
The back nine starts with an excellent par 5, par 4, par 3 salvo, and from here on there’s a little more room to manoeuvre.